Inspiration, it seems, is everywhere.
Inspiring videos and posts fill our social media feeds as do the inspirational quotes, which also anchor our email signatures (sometimes incorrectly, as you will see). It's all too easy to be inspired by and enamored with those who did the impossible, seem to have figured it out, or found their life's calling as we continue to toil away in our everyday, mundane lives.
But finding real inspiration – entering into that discover phase we talk about that sends us reeling and in pursuit of something we were made to do – is really not that difficult. It just requires being intentional and making room in our hyper-connected, over-scheduled and immediate-gratification world.
We’ll use a couple of inspirational quotes and stories to illustrate how you might go about turning inspiration into action.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
Mary Schirch, Chicago Tribune columnist (improperly attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt)
This is about getting out of your comfort zone and actually “doing” something, not just thinking about it or passively absorbing the idea as something you'll consider. Notice, she calls us to “do.”
Jeremy, my Joy Venture co-founder, has recently stepped out of his comfort zone to take pictures of strangers. This requires some dialogue with a complete stranger on the street and getting their permission. Awkward? Sometimes. Intimidating? For sure.
But here’s the cool thing about what Jeremy is doing: he has a tiny Bluetooth printer on his hip so he can print a Polaroid-style picture for the person he just photographed. While he waits for it to print, stories and conversations happen. A connection is made. Seeds and new ideas get planted. It will be interesting to see what takes root and what this experience leads Jeremy to do next. That’s the power of discovery, but it requires us to be active.
“Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act. Action will delineate and define you.”
Witold Gombrowicz, Polish novelist (improperly accredited to Thomas Jefferson)
For years we can ask all the right the questions and still fail to follow up with any meaningful action. Jeremy and I have a friend, Stacy, who has a background in tutoring/test preparation, a desire to help kids succeed, and a passion for bicycling. Yet her professional life was a patchwork of jobs and positions that left her unfulfilled. Long before Joy Venture was a thing, our friend took a keen interest in what we were doing in Cambodia, including our efforts to raise funds to provide bicycles to orphaned children so they could get to and from school safely.
Bikes and kids. That spoke to her. If the idea and inspiration that came over her was going to amount to anything, it would require her to "do" something.
So she got involved in EduGo, a nonprofit that provides bicycles to orphaned children, and led the organization's first-ever (and then second) Road to Success Ride. She began to discover -- or better yet, rekindle -- what she felt she was made to do. She took a chance on herself and her love for empowering young minds to help them see their potential by launching her own coaching and tutoring company -- appropriately named Next Gear. And, for the second time in a calendar year, she'll find herself in a small Cambodian village, building relationships with orphaned kids who not only will receive new bicycles her organized rides have funded, but also be assured of a meaningful education with a future filled with hope.
And here's Stacy's cool thing: she's combining her passion for bicycles with her calling to serve young students, both of which are making an impact on kids on opposite ends of the world. It started with a whisper, then a nudge, followed by small step, and then...
We don't have to figure it all out in order to get started.
(That's not a quote. It's just something we know from experience.)
Now about those quotes and attributions
We have a tendency to believe that only great people say and do profound things. We have a tendency to want to look up in admiration to people we all know instead of looking at who is standing next to us and getting to know their story.
A little digging on those quotes unearthed a not-so-surprising truth: some rather ordinary, hard-working and largely unknown people are behind these words – words that are embedded in their original and inspired experiences. You can find the backstory to each inaccurate quote here and here and here.
Social media affords people to write a history of their own liking. And when we read it, we tend to believe it. But if you want to discover what truly inspires you, that thing you were meant to do, then shut down the digital feeds. Go outside. Meet new people. Listen carefully. And do something. You just might be surprised where you’ll find yourself.
Consider taking this last quote to heart, pin it on a wall, and remember that more often than not, extraordinary things are written and achieved by ordinary people. Just. Like. You.
"For what it’s worth…it’s never too late, or in my case too early,
to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit.
Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same.
There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it.
I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you.
I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before.
I hope you meet people who have a different point of view.
I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not,
I hope you have the courage to start all over again."
Eric Roth, screenwriter (inaccurately attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald)